Texans rally from 21 down, escape San Diego with win
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - The scene was all too familiar for the San Diego Chargers.
The Houston Texans rallied from a 21-point deficit with huge defensive stops in the second half, and Randy Bullock booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to stun the Chargers, 31-28, on Monday at Qualcomm Stadium.
After falling behind 28-7 early in the third quarter, the Texans (1-0) defense didn't allow another first down, and Brian Cushing made his return to the field a memorable one with an interception return that tied the game.
Matt Schaub guided the offense to two scores in the second half, throwing for three touchdowns with an interception for the game while amassing 346 yards through the air on 34-of-45 efficiency.
Owen Daniels had two touchdowns among his five receptions for 67 yards and running back Arian Foster rushed for 57 on 18 carries.
Phillip Rivers tossed four touchdown passes for San Diego (0-1), but couldn't move the offense down the stretch in a game that ended up resembling the Chargers loss to the Denver Broncos last season, when they blew a 24-0 first half lead.
The Chargers had looked overly impressive in their new offensive scheme implemented by first-year head coach Mike McCoy in the first half, and seemed in cruise control after Eddie Royal hauled in his second touchdown of the game on the first drive of the third quarter.
However, from there it was a completely different game.
The Texans defense, which couldn't stop the passing game in the first half, suddenly became airtight over the final 25 minutes of play. After Rivers' last TD pass, he completed just one of his last nine throws.
Houston matched San Diego's opening score with one of its own, answering with a 70-yard drive that saw Schaub complete 6-of-7 throws, including a 7- yard TD toss to Garrett Graham to make it a two-score game.
They were on the move again late in the period, with rookie DeAndre Hopkins hauling in a 30-yard grab just before the end of the quarter. Houston originally settled for a 37-yard field goal, but the Chargers were flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the attempt, giving the Texans a first down. On the next play, Schaub fired a 9-yard strike to Daniels for a touchdown, bringing the Texans within 28-21.
Texans linebacker Cushing, who had been having a quiet night in his return to the field from ACL surgery, suddenly found a way make an impact. With Rivers throwing short to the outside, Cushing dove full extension to intercept the pass. He then sprung to his feet and rumbled 18 yards to the end zone to tie the score at 28-28 with 9:30 left to play in the game.
Forcing another three-and-out, the Texans defense got the ball back in the hands of their quarterback with 3:53 to play. Andre Johnson, who had a monster 12-catch, 146-yard performance, snagged three passes on the team's final drive, which set up Bullock's game-winner as time expired.
The Chargers' new regime got off to an excellent start, forcing a turnover on the game's first play to fuel early momentum in a first half that saw the hosts build a 21-7 lead by the break.
Jarret Johnson swatted at Schaub's first throw and it deflected into the hands of defensive tackle Cam Thomas. Rivers wasted no time off the interception, leading Ryan Mathews down the right sideline on a 14-yard strike that gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead 15 seconds into the game.
The Texans drew even with 3:11 left in the first, with Daniels concluding a 10-play series with his second catch of the drive, a 1-yard reception in the back of the end zone.
However, Houston's vaunted defense struggled to slow down the Chargers' offense in the second. Brice McCain was flagged for a 21-yard pass interference on Royal, who would score one play later on a 6-yard toss from Rivers.
The Texans' ensuing drive stalled on the San Diego 27, as Foster ran into a brick wall on 4th-and-1 for no gain. Johnson then had a long touchdown reception called off on Houston's next touch, with replay showing the receiver being downed by contact 27 yards into his 67-yard sprint. Bullock then went on to miss a 51-yard field goal later in the drive.
San Diego took over, and with less than two minutes remaining in the half, marched down the field to score a touchdown, highlighted by great plays from Antonio Gates and Vincent Brown.
Gates made a one-handed catch on a crossing pattern he would take 34 yards down to the Texans' 5-yard line. On third down, Brown made a short reception and headed for the corner of the end zone. At first, it looked as if his outstretched arm fell just short of the pylon, but a review showed he got a piece of it and the Chargers snagged a 21-7 lead before the break.
The Texans picked up their first win in the all-time series with San Diego, which had won the first four matchups ... Houston safety Ed Reed sat out while continuing to recover from offseason hip surgery ... It was Johnson's 19th career game with at least 10 catches.
09/10 02:24:22 ET